Customer experience is today’s marketing currency. It’s what differentiates and singles out the best of breed, not just within specific markets but across all markets.
That’s because consumers don’t compare within sector any longer. Their latest best experience with any brand is the new gold standard to which all brands must now adhere. Anyone and everyone is the new competition when it comes to customer experience.
So marketers need to be skilled Experience Makers. Long gone are the waterfall cycles that used to shape marketing calendars with product launches and advertising campaigns. Success today depends on the speed with which you can ship an MVP, test it, improve it and constantly add new features. This requires a new set of marketing tools and a new agility. Marketers need to arm themselves with the right combination of people, technology, process and data to churn out relevant and dynamic experiences 24/7.
What we’re talking about is disrupting the marketing department from within because traditional ways of working just won’t cut it. So where to start? Funnily enough, that’s probably the only bit that hasn’t changed. Start with your business goals and build your strategy around it. Prioritise and break that down into the capabilities that you’ll actually need to execute on that strategy. It’s only really at that point that you’ll be able to make the right decisions to build your experience ecosystem. But before you get going, here are 5 steps that you’ll need to take to ensure that your business is really built for experience.
Plug into the right people
The marketing agility discussion so often begins with technology. But while technology is undoubtedly chief enabler, it’s the people that work with the technology that really make the difference between success and failure. New roles are appearing; chief experience officer, journey managers, and data analysts of all shapes and sizes. And these roles are not easy to fill. Firstly, there’s an enormous amount of competition for good digital talent. With the ever-increasing number of tech start-ups, expanding global tech vendors, transformational businesses and digital agencies, there are a finite number of people with the right skillset. And what is the right skillset; what’s more important, a solid marketing background or a technical profile?
You won’t necessarily have all the players that you need in your workforce at any one time. The best case scenario we’ve found is to build a hybrid team of full-time employees, specialist contractors and partner agencies, supplemented by interns and graduates who can develop within the team and become those high-demand workers of the future. When hiring young talent, cultural fit and the right kind of hungry, can-do attitude should be as high on the list as any specific skills. Technical skills are transferable from system to system, whereas soft skills are harder to develop but crucially important in building a team.
Define and build the right stack
Having the right technology stack in place can turbo-charge your marketing agility. So how do you find your way through the forest of the marketing technology landscape to identify the tools that are just right for your business? With your business strategy and goals clearly articulated, start with auditing existing platforms to determine where the gaps are in your capabilities. Adding new capabilities will help you to establish new best practices and lead to greater agility. Each tool in the stack creates, analyses, or consumes data, and to run these efficiently, they need to be effectively integrated to serve a common purpose.
When adding new tools, context is key. If you just need to get to market quickly and support the core business commercially, a single commerce engine is probably still the right starting point. If you are further down the line with ecommerce, you’ll probably be opting for a headless ecommerce approach enabling you to deliver even more rich content, across all channels and devices, without sacrificing speed and immediacy. For a more relevant experience, you’ll want to add targeting and decisioning tools to dynamically personalise this content. Your data and context should inform your decisions on technology investment.
Enablement is key
With the right team and the right technology in place, what could go wrong? With statistics suggesting that up to 70% of digital transformation projects fail, the answer probably has to be; quite a lot. The term enablement is often used synonymously with training. However, this confusion sells it short by a long, long way. Effective digital enablement manages all the change, communication, and upskilling required to deliver business value through a digital platform, amalgamating the operational knowledge, best practices, and governance.
Training, in fact, is just one of six phases of enablement (link to Richard Logan’s blog) that we have identified, the others being technology adoption, onboarding, operational alignment, communications and finally, optimisation and ROI. You’ll need to take a holistic approach to empower your teams and achieve greater agility.
Focus on the author experience
You can’t build a great customer experience without a great author experience. This is the ‘management’ bit of content management, where your teams can make changes to improve the experience. But while ubiquitous consumer platforms such as Airbnb and Uber are driving global adoption via simplicity and ease of use, enterprise platforms are often more complex beasts.
The authoring workload, already driven by consumer expectations for a personal, seamless and consistent experience across channels and devices, is now increasing again, thanks to the trend for content-led commerce experiences. All of this means brands have to push out more content, more swiftly and respond ever faster to data that can help to improve and personalise the experience. Technology vendors are responding with new tools. For instance, it’s now possible to create a single page application (SPA), for a site that performs really well for the customer, with a back end that authors just like a regular CMS. Don’t underestimate the importance of arming your teams with an authoring experience that they can easily and speedily navigate and, yes, enjoy.
Build a single view of the customer
Finally, data, of course, underpins any experience ecosystem and is the key to marketing agility. But with so much data, coming in from so many channels and devices, how do you piece it all together and build a single view of the customer, without which, you can never really create a truly personalised experience?
The truth is, it’s really hard and the net result is that many organisations have reams of data coming in but not the insights coming out. Customer Engagement Platforms are the new kids on the block, helping to solve this data conundrum. With built-in intelligence and machine learning they pull data from a number of sources, analyse it in real-time and, via intelligent recommendation engines, serve up relevant messaging across multiple channels.
We’re only really beginning to see the impact of adding intelligence to marketing platforms. The potential is huge and so exciting and will free marketers to focus on the strategic issues while taking care of some of the repetitive, low-value tasks with a speed and accuracy that humans just can’t achieve. Marketing agility really is set to reach new heights.
First published by Digital Doughnut on 7th November 2019.
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